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Defending life
from conception to natural death


Over 60% support assisted suicide

18 December 2008

A British opinion poll suggests significant support for assisted suicide. More than three fifths of respondents to a YouGov survey said they would consider suicide if terminally ill. YouGov asked a sample of over 2,000 people about a range of political issues. Three fifths also supported the recent showing of a suicide on television and 85% thought it was right not to prosecute the parents of a 23-year-old paralysed man who took him to the Swiss facility where he is said to have poisoned himself. More than two thirds wanted assisted suicide to be legalised where friends or family took part. Lord Warner of Brockley, a Labour peer and former health minister, says he will try to use the government's Justice and Coroners Bill to amend the 1961 Suicide Act to permit some assistance of suicide. [Sunday Times, 14 December] SPUC's Paul Tully said: "Assisted suicide is unethical, unnecessary and dangerous, regardless of the state of public or parliamentary opinion. The sequence of questions about this issue first aroused sympathy for the relatives of alleged suicides, who have used the media to promote their account of things, and then asked about changing the law. Other aspects of the poll suggest a bias in the questions, such as the reference to the Swiss suicide facility as a 'clinic' when it is a suburban flat, not a medical centre. Parliamentarians have to look at issues in a much more careful and balanced way, and undermining the legal protection of the vulnerable is a profoundly damaging change. The same survey asked if the London Olympics should be abandoned or scaled right back - and most people said yes. Politicians do not always go with the crowd when the ramifications of a decision are considered."

Women who are not healed emotionally after having an abortion can be prone to having more in future, according to the founder of a group which has helped thousands of people affected by abortion. Dr Theresa Burke of Rachel's Vineyard Ministries, Pennsylvania, was speaking particularly of Russia where 70% of pregnancies end in abortion. She said: "The initial trauma of the degrading and painful procedure causes a level of detachment; the abortion experience is so unacceptable that the mind struggles to acknowledge it. This numbness leads to a dysfunctional lifestyle of drug abuse, relationship problems, and multiple abortions." Russia could only stop its demographic decline through help for those affected by abortion. The average woman in that country had between three and eight abortions, Dr Burke said. [Christians Unite, 17 December]

A 38-year-old woman who an Italian court says can be starved to death could be moved to a clinic which is prepared to do it. Ms Eluana Englaro, who was injured in a 1992 vehicle accident, is given food and drink by tube, and nuns in Lombardy looking after her insist on continuing to do so. A government health minister says stopping sustenance would be illegal. Mr Maurizio Sacconi cites the UN's Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, saying that withdrawing food and drink from the disabled is discriminatory. Media mistakenly claim that Ms Englaro is on life support yet she is not; she can breathe alone. Her move to a clinic in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region has been stopped pending further legal rulings. [LifeSiteNews, 17 December]

A South Korean court has ruled that a 75-year-old woman there can have her feeding tube removed. The hospital in Seoul is appealing against the decision. Our source says she is also on life support. Mr Wesley Smith, the American bioethicist, says the woman is unconscious and not brain-dead. Tackling such issues was being made difficult by the use of inaccurate and euphemistic language. [LifeNews, 16 December]

Two Scottish men who have cancer plan to go abroad to commit suicide. Friends at the End of Glasgow reportedly assesses people on their suitability to use two Swiss clinics, and has already assisted two people to kill themselves. Care Not Killing said there was a danger that people could believe that certain lives were not worth living. Our source describes how Alison Davis of SPUC's disability rights group is grateful that friends persuaded her not to commit suicide. [Christian Institute, 17 December]

The Catholic church's recently published instruction on bioethical questions reportedly avoids the issue of when the human soul enters the body. A British religious magazine quotes Dr David Jones, professor of bioethics at St Mary's University College, as saying that Dignitas Personae does not ascribe personhood to embryos. The document does say the early unborn child has a person's dignity or moral status, and may not be killed. Cardinal Keith O'Brien, Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, Scotland, urges Catholics working in the sphere to examine their consciences. [Tablet, 20 December]

A woman in Britain has told of her harrowing experience of IVF. Ms Laura Wood's treatment included pre-implantation genetic diagnosis to screen for a chromosomal problem. She and her husband saw 14 different doctors and her emotions were disrupted by large doses of hormones. Initial estimates of the likelihood of success were optimistic. Two embryos were produced, but the resulting child miscarried and Ms Wood plans to plant a tree in his or her memory. The couple are now considering adoption and donor-assisted conception. They will not have IVF again, which Ms Wood says can become addictive. [Sunday Times, 14 December]

Teenage pregnancy is among criteria examined by school inspectors in England. [BBC, 17 December]

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